Wellington Scoop

The pro-roading gang of nine

Kerry Prendergast supported a flyover near the Basin Reserve. She lost the election. Celia Wade-Brown opposed the flyover. She won.

There can’t be anyone on Mt Victoria who supports a flyover. If it was built, it would be the most visible and the most damaging of all the secret roading plans that are being developed for Wellington by the government’s Transport Agency. It’s our city, but they aren’t telling us what they’re planning. Councilors may have been given special treatment, with occasional briefings behind closed doors. But not the public. And so no dialogue has been possible on some of the great alternative ideas which have been offered and apparently ignored.

And now the Agency is pushing city councilors into agreeing with everything that it wants to do – before the public has been allowed to see the plans. After more than three years of development, there are rumours that consultation may start next month. But residents of Mt Victoria and Hataitai are also discovering that the consultation period is likely to be disproportionately short.

None of this seems to concern nine city councilors who are acting as if their prime responsibility is to the Transport Agency. In response to Mayor Wade-Brown’s reasonable proposal of scheduling a debate on transport issues once reports were prepared, they have demanded a meeting next Wednesday – and it’s been scheduled without any agenda being published on the council’s website.

The head of the council’s transport portfolio, Andy Foster (who is also president of the New Zealand Traffic Institute) is not one of the councilors who are forcing the rushed meeting. He summarised his caution about the Transport Agency plans when he spoke to last week’s meeting of Hataitai residents who are concerned about having a four-lane highway pushed through their suburb. He acknowledged that traffic growth is decreasing while energy prices are peaking and alternative technologies are being developed. And he warned: “The risk is that we are planning for business as it’s been for the last sixty years. What if it’s not the same?”

The nine councilors – branded as “pro-roading” in yesterday’s DomPost – have obviously been able to ignore the evidence and to persuade themselves that nothing is changing. It’s curious that the list of nine includes Councilor John Morrison (the DomPost says he has “come out of the shadows” for the current controversy) who is on record as being less than whole-hearted in his support for the Agency’s roading plans because he is against a flyover. His comments yesterday suggest he may have given up trying to protect the Basin.

Two other pro-roading councilors (one of whom began attacking the mayor 24 hours after her election) were notable for leaving last week’s Hataitai meeting before the official presentations had been completed, so they didn’t hear ratepayers talking about their concerns and they didn’t hear Kapiti residents speaking sadly about their treatment by the Transport Agency.

Then there’s deputy mayor Ian McKinnon, again voting against the mayor who nominated him for his job. He shouldn’t be surprised that the mayor is unhappy about his performance.

Mind you, the situation may not be as grim as the DomPost suggested with its “rebel councilors” angle. The Transport Agency wants the council to confirm that it supports the overall roading plan rather than endorsing each of the secret designs. “We appreciate that the council will have views on the specific design details once they are available, and we will welcome their feedback as part of the consultation process,” said the Agency’s central regional director. Mayor Wade-Brown, who has several times committed to the consultation process, had also committed to scheduling a meeting to discuss the overall plan. But the nine rebel councilors weren’t willing to accept her timetable. With their successful demand for a council meeting next Wednesday, they appear to want to give the Agency a free hand before the public has any information to consider. “We have got to have the guts to send a clear message of support,” says Councilor Morrison. What does this mean for the Basin Reserve?

Two great ideas to avoid a flyover:
Solving the problems by changing traffic flows
Putting traffic underground and creating a park


  1. David, 16. April 2011, 11:30

    Just follow the money trail.

  2. Rob Martin, 16. April 2011, 13:44

    My biggest concern is the breakdown in democracy when a non-elected government department NZTA is trying to dictate to our elected representatives what it considers the best solution for traffic through the city to the airport. But being locked into just the roading alternative, what our councillors are doing is to abdicate their responsibilities without looking at the alternatives. It is all so 1960s when cities were torn apart but which history has shown to be counterproductive. This is going to be a seminal point in the Mayor’s term, as her attempts at a consensual approach have been undermined by councillors who are living in the past. If they get their way, we should ensure each part of the road is named after them – such as the Ian McKinnon Memorial Garden By-Pass, the John Morrison Basin Reserve Flyover and the Swampy Marsh Ruahine Street Raceway. – so that future generations will remember them!

  3. Paul Bruce, 16. April 2011, 17:11

    The motion of the nine Councillors has been useful in bringing out the car addicts who are not interested in the growing numbers reliant on public transport, or democratic process. Their motion is an outrageous abuse of the democratic process.

    The NZTA, and now these Councillors, wants the Wellington City Council to formally commit to whatever the motorway builders have planned for the city, before their plans have become public, and before it has heard the public’s views on the impact these projects will have on the city.

    Just 20% of the $2.5 billion planned for new roads would provide a high capacity transit system with increased resilience to increasing fossil fuel prices. And that would release a couple of billion dollars to help the rebuild of Christchurch! While Government is seeking cuts to social services, the last we need is further money poured into projects with no economic return to the community and a benefit cost ratio as low as 0.4.

  4. David, 17. April 2011, 9:44

    Considering that Paul is one of another gang at GWRC who can’t sort out the Wellington bus system problems and who allow Infratil to continue to profit at community expense, I find his comments a bit calling the kettle black.

  5. Brent Efford, 17. April 2011, 12:12

    That is a particularly spiteful and poorly informed comment, David. Those who know anything about what goes on at the GWRC will be aware that Paul is often in a minority of one when it comes to advocating for PT improvements at the council table. To blame him for the outcome of policies he has consistently opposed is pathetic.

    To get back on track, it is bizarre that councilors for Wellington, of all places, continue to press for ‘cars first’ transport policies. We already have the greatest amount of motorway mileage IN THE WORLD per capita, just beating Houston into second place. Wellington has the world’s 3rd-highest provision of parking per 1,000 CBD jobs, too (beaten only by Phoenix and Riyad) and there are already 8-10 through traffic lanes between inner Wellington and the eastern suburbs.

    But the road warriors are still not satisfied!

    The councilors who are trying to ram through massive further increases in car-dependency and car use – the inevitable outcome of the NZTA plans – would all ‘tsk tsk’ at the boy racers and grandstand against them around the Council table. BUT in their determination to increase fast driving, their sneering at sustainability, their evident hatred of adaptation to the future and their prioritising of their driving gratification over the needs of future generations, those councilors are far more damaging than the worst of car hoons.

  6. Pauline Swann, 17. April 2011, 12:34

    As a member of the public who attended the Hataitai meeting, it’s a pity that the two Eastern suburbs councillors (who were present) did not stay for the discussions from the floor, as they would have been able to tell the “behind closed doors nine” about the concern of the public for true consultation. This appears to be a return to Prendergast tactics as quoted in the Dominion/Post weekend edition – they would meet behind the scenes dozens of times to come to agreement and by the time the issue came to the council table they would already have it over the line. This revelation does not give much assurance to ratepayers who are currently being encouraged to make submissions to the Draft Annual Plan, knowing that the majority of councillors (including the three new members) have returned to the “closed door” system and that their written and oral submissions will fall on deaf ears. The special meeting agenda for Wednesday is a farce as the nine have told the public where their votes will go.

  7. David, 17. April 2011, 15:24

    Brent, let Paul defend himself please. There is a large and growing pro-public transport feeling within the community, so he has a large constituency looking for leadership on the issue, and if he wants to be more than the lone voice you suggest, he should either step up to the mark, or step aside. We pay our councillors to publicly stand up and argue their case with facts, conviction and persuasion and any other ethical tactics that bring about change for a better community.

  8. Dianne Buchan, 17. April 2011, 15:35

    I think it is very unfair of NZTA to expect the City Council to express support for the proposed motorway extension before the Assessment of Environmental Effects has been done although it is clear that at least nine councillors don’t see a problem with this. If the majority of Councillors openly support the proposal, how open would the consultation and resource consent processes be? What would be the point of engaging in either process knowing that the Council had already approved the development subject to a bit of tweaking here and there?

  9. filosofos, 17. April 2011, 19:21

    Exactly, Dianne. The democratic process depends heavily on open and logical debate, weighing the evidence and casting an informed vote. If some people have already made up their minds and have closed themselves off to all further persuasion, then what’s the point of the whole process? It’s just window dressing.

    As for David’s unjustified attack on Paul, again it comes down to proper conduct of the democratic process. Paul is certainly vociferous in trying to convince his fellow councillors and the public generally, but if they refuse to be convinced and vote against him because of dogged stubbornness or because they are in someone’s back pocket, there’s nothing he can do short of staging a military coup and setting himself up as the GWRC’s new dictator.

  10. Kent Duston, 17. April 2011, 21:40

    Dianne – irrespective of the Assessment of Environmental Effects, I’d like to see the actual design for the Basin Reserve! We’ve been waiting two and a half years for NZTA to finally put something on the table, and I think it’s about bloody time they did so.

    As to the brain explosion that has led to this extraordinary council meeting, it’s interesting that one of the political blogs is now referring to the responsible councillors as the “Gang of Numpties”.

  11. Paul Bruce, 17. April 2011, 21:48

    One of the problems with commenting on public transport issues is that the main Wellington daily newspaper is not interested in investigative journalism. Thanks to wellington.scoop for providing this forum.

    Penalty payments for poor performance have rarely been applied because of lack of good information. This is about to change with real time information. We now need to rewrite the contracts with better performance measures, better control of fare structures and profits. And we need to move towards a network approach…. a Wellington bus review is due out later this year, which has the potential to increase the efficiency of the service by 20 or 30%, resulting in more reliability and more income. Unfortunately, the net bus contracts mean that there no direct financial return to GW if the buses begin to operate more profitably. This has to change.

    A new PTOM (Public Transport Operating Model) is still under development by the Government and our officers seem unable to give us a clear indication of when we will be negotiating new contracts. The Minister is due to report back to the house in May. A tendering process has to be completed before other negotiations take place.  

    More at length comments on transport are on the Wellington green website

  12. Newtownite, 17. April 2011, 23:04

    At tonight’s meeting of the Newtown Residents Association (Monday 18 April, Newtown Hall, Daniell St, opposite the Mediterranean Warehouse, at 7.30pm) Steven Knowles of the Tunnels Alliance will speak about the Mt Victoria Tunnel upgrade – there’s to be a series of night closures and traffic diversion that will impact on Newtown. This again is a State Highway 1 project that is been organised, arranged and implemented after the decision has been made rather than engaging with the community to see how it feels and what it can offer.

    In respect of the Basin Reserve and the future of the second tunnel, Ruahine St and Wellington Rd, why doesn’t NZTA start talking directly with community groups about the options, rather than being heavy handed on the Council and imposing its grandiose option on the communities of Mt Victoria, Te Aro, Newtown, Hataitai and Kilbirnie.

    However, I understood that the Council has already (albeit prior to the last election) given its full support to the Ngauranga to airport strategy and that flagged the option of a flyover and second tunnel.

    So where does the council stand? Councillor Ahipene Mercer is missing his back room deals with the mayor of the last regime (Dompost 16 April) that meant decisions were made before meetings. I expect that NZTA, along with Councillor Ray and others having done some back room deal, has decided and as such will slam through its one option regardless of what we as citizens of Wellington want.

  13. Nell Wind, 17. April 2011, 23:23

    Go Celia – stick to your mandate of investigating a transport system for all Wellington City residents. Shame on the nine councillors who have been sucked in by the NZTA with their ‘promise’ of dollars for the ridiculously low cost benefit ratio of only 0.4 for such damaging projects.

    We don’t want our city planned by the pro-car old fashioned NZTA.

  14. Paula Warren, 18. April 2011, 12:05

    It is NZTA that needs to re-commit to the Ngauranga to Airport plan. That plan is clear that “traffic management” at the Basin Reserve (not new roads please note) needs to be studied, and any construction only if “appropriate” in light of that study. And it commits to a series of projects that we haven’t seen much progress on or support for from NZTA, including bus priority, improvements for cyclists and walkers, and travel demand management.

  15. Pauline Swann, 18. April 2011, 15:01

    What a timely report in today’s DomPost about the new Air New Zealand service from Paraparaumu to Auckland scheduled to take off during Labour weekend. This must surely see a reduction in Kapiti residents heading to and from Wellington Airport. With the terminal to be completed in 12 weeks’ time, Air New Zealand must be expecting this to be a popular service.

  16. Marie O, 18. April 2011, 15:54

    The chances of the funding that NZTA are waving enticingly in the faces of the Humpty Numpty 9 being scrapped are about 98%. It will no longer be available post May budget. This all seems like a very predictable manipulative ploy by NZTA to try and shore up across govt support for leaving the funding in the budget. I dont think it will work. You can only fool some of the people some of the time and Celia Wade Brown is made of stronger stuff. They need to go and find someone else to try and control.

  17. Brent Efford, 18. April 2011, 22:33

    NZTA have become so much a highway promotion agency under this Government that we (Trans-Action and other rail and PT advocates) have good reason to query the Agency’s participation as a ‘partner’ in the N2A Spine Study. It clearly cannot be trusted.

  18. Robert Miles, 19. April 2011, 20:22

    The New Zealand Transport Association and the Ian McKinnons, the ‘Mysterious’ Morrison and the other steamroller councillors are 50 years out of date still thinking, like the British town planners who crushed people into cheap low quality public high rises and destroyed their transport systems of trams and trolley buses. Motorways are what the Nats and Peter Dunnes think the proletariat and the struggling families want. Do they really need to drive their kids to school? Can struggling couples with a joint income of $50,000-75,000 really afford to have kids? In a city with world class aspirations. I think not.
    In the l960s the academics and professional ladies of San Francisco said they didn’t want the tram and cable cars lines ripped up, that they didn’t want the destruction of communities and beautiful buildings by vandalistic motorways. The motorways have already been driven far too deep into Wellington. Wellington’s population is part sophisticated professionals and half as provincial as Palmerston North and Wanganui. Maybe intelligent council policies should price such people out of the Wellington market and penalise long distance commuting. It doesn’t just apply to cars. Commuters from Kapiti Coast, Horowhenua or Featherston and Masterton should be charged as high a fare as the market will bear, which might well be twice as high. Patronage would remain high, the unsuitable would be forced to move back to the provinces. Good exciting people would move to Wellington. This may seem distasteful and hard line – but if you want a modern eco city with nice people, Celia will have to be ruthless -because political reality means that if you want a town like Austin, Chapel Hill or Sacramento you can’t really have it both ways.